Clark County Business Organizations – Politically Compromised Leadership

Logos of various Clark County business associations and local business paper.

What should a business organization do? Most business people would agree: Promote free enterprise in their chosen locale. Promote lower taxes and less regulation. Considering that government at all levels forces excessive regulation and costs, business advocacy organizations have important and often difficult jobs in pushing back and helping their members. However, many of these organizations are in bed with the very entities that they should be working to contain.

The most visibly broken ‘business advocacy‘ group is the US Chamber of Commerce, an unambiguous crony capitalist entity. This organization exists to facilitate coordination between politicians who need to be paid off and the narrow interests of the mega-corporations who play this corrupt game. To make matters worse, this collusion is often at the expense of smaller businesses.

In Clark County our local problem with business organizations was put on full display in the takedown of the corrupted and incompetent public works project called the Columbia River Crossing (CRC). This project had been hijacked by special interest and high-density public planning ideologues. The broken status of the CRC project was increasingly uncovered in 2010 to 2013 to a point where Washington politicians, encouraged by citizen activists, could kill the boondoggle.

Through this entire process, local business advocacy organizations didn’t show the first sign of correcting or nuancing their unwavering support. Instead, they were mindless advocates of the CRC to the bitter end. This mindless CRC advocacy included the Vancouver Chamber of Commerce, Downtown Association, Identity Clark County (ICC), Columbia River Economic Development Council (CREDC), Vancouver Business Journal, and other organizations to a lesser degree. None of these groups showed the slightest ability for independent thought during the CRC takedown. As the evidence mounted about the special interest corruption and hardline transportation ideology baked into that project, these organizations failed to correct. They perpetuated the CRC propaganda with a few of their members chanting the groupthink message. We know of many members who were disgusted with the leadership of these organizations.

The reason this article is brought forward now was the politically motivated behavior of the Clark County Building Industry Association (BIA). This group should promote free enterprise and work to reduce government related cost and meddling in the building industry. Good zoning and sensible fees to pay for impacts to public utilities are reasonable, but it’s well established that big-government thinking has gone well past sensible controls. This has been the case in Clark County for many years.

Before returning to the BIA, we recognize in this primary political season in Clark County a clear battle between anti-corruption, reformer Republicans and establishment Republicans. The face of the anti-corruption candidates are David Madore, Eileen Quiring, and Liz Pike, with other aligned candidates. The establishment Republicans are aligned, if not fully coordinating, with the corrupt Clark County legacy political establishment. This establishment is the basis for dozens of carefully vetted articles on ClarkCounty.info that highlight the incompetence and self-interested behavior of establishment players.

The BIA seems to think it’s relevant to make endorsement to citizens, notwithstanding the broader reasons no one (conditionally excepting BIA members) should ever pay attention to such endorsements. Notwithstanding our point of view on endorsements, we noticed the BIA endorsements for the 2016 August 2nd primary have been partially hijacked by forces contrary to BIA interests. Logically, the BIA or any business advocacy organization would support candidates who want government to be more streamlined and efficient, which also mitigates corruption. But the annoying political calculation, and worse, unspoken additional political agendas could have such endorsements end up all over the place, with little or no alignment to the organization’s goals and member’s interests.

Such political forces have warped the result of the primary election endorsements by the BIA, first in what races to endorse, and secondly in who was endorsed.

From BIA of Clark County

From BIA of Clark County

First, the decision to endorse selected candidates would be reasonably driven by the BIA believing favored candidates may have difficulty in getting through the primary. Of the four races they chose for endorsements, three have no issues in getting through the primary, including one candidate that is the wife of the endorsing board’s chairman. However the endorsement that caught our eye is the promotion of candidate John Blom, who’s running to unseat conservative reformer David Madore. Blom is an early-30s local Realtor who was handpicked and is aggressively supported by the Clark County legacy establishment to beat Madore. Remember that Madore has led significant gains in deconstructing the arrogant and bureaucratic status of Clark County government, including reduction of government fees and regulation that boosted local commerce, including the building trades. Reforms that have essentially been reversed by the new liberal councilor majority with which Blom is firmly aligned. So this endorsement cannot have any defensible connection to the good of the BIA members.

How did an inexperienced establishment politician get a somewhat unusual primary endorsement? Well let’s look at the Building Industry Group Board, the BIA-related function that makes political endorsements. It’s a political action committee (PAC) composed of the following people:

  1. Tracy Wilson, DeWils Industries (Chair)
  2. Dave Campos, iQ Credit Union
  3. Jamie Howsley, Jordan Ramis PC
  4. Eric Golemo, SGA Engineering
  5. Mike Kinnaman, Designers Northwest
  6. Betty Sue Morris
  7. AJ Gomez, Global Security
Tracy Wilson - Chairman of endorsing board. From BIA website.

Tracy Wilson – Chairman of endorsing board. From BIA website.

Of note is the Chairman Tracy Wilson, who in recent years was a conservative activist, now turned full establishment operative who’s aggressive in resisting conservative reformers. Then there’s Jamie Howsley, one of the board members of the Connecting Clark County PAC currently bombarding local citizens with gross misinformation about conservative councilor David Madore. Finally of note is Betty Sue Morris, a hard-left past politician whose purpose on this board is surmised to form a political bridge to get liberal politicians to hear the BIA message.

Jamie Howsley - Member of endorsing board. From BIA website.

Jamie Howsley – Member of endorsing board. From BIA website.

Based on the influence of these people, with the help of a complicit board majority, this group is largely acting on their personal political point of view, which is not aligned with the interest of BIA members. There is abundant evidence that candidate John Blom will do nothing to reverse the current arrogant big-government attitude at the County, with growing regulatory red tape and costs that hurt the building trades.

The BIA and other local business advocacy groups generally serve their members well, but when it comes to matters important to the Clark County legacy political establishment, the loyalty often switches from members to the establishment. We encourage members of these organizations to clean up this unfortunate element of your respective organizations.

 

See ClarkCounty.info’s objective and comprehensive information on local candidates.